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When I was a little girl, I learned a craft called "paper quilling" that involved curling long thin strips of colored paper around a pin to form spirals then joining them to make patterns and pictures.

The Japanese have one-upped paper quilling. The art of paper knotwork, called mizuhiki, is extraordinary. These paper cords were originally used to decorate gifts for the Emperor; later they became integral to a samurai's hairdo. Today we're back to using decorative mizuhiki on gift envelopes and new year gifts.

The knots, always in two or more colors, range from simple but perfect bows to swooping double butterflies and woven cranes.

Even the least expensive gift envelope has mizuhiki drawn on because the colors and patterns form a code. Red and white cords are for happy occasions; blue and black cords are for sorrowful ones. The sort of knot, the direction of the ends and the combination of colors tell the recipient exactly how much gift money is in the envelope!

Stationery stores stock a wide range of gift envelopes, each mizuhiki outdoing the last for beauty and elegance. When I recently asked a clerk which envelope would be appropriate for a wedding, she pointed to a section that contained about 300! Spoiled for choice, indeed...

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I'm looking for directions for something besides the good luck knot...any ideas?

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